By Ryan Harless
Ryan Harless is a third-year undergraduate at BGSU from Hillsboro, Ohio. He is majoring in Sport Management with a Journalism Minor. Baseball and golf at all levels are his primary interests but he is also interested in combat sports, hockey, basketball, and football.
October 13, 2022
Since the late 1980s, baseball has evolved from the steroid era to the sabermetric era. During that time, there has been one true star whose career began in 2001; yet he remains relevant today – Albert Pujols. Since batting .204 prior to the All-Star break, he reached a seemingly impossible mark by hitting his 700th career home run. In doing so, he joined Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and Barry Bonds as the only members of the 700-home run club.
Entering the 2022 season, it looked like this was going to be the classic farewell tour for Pujols. He was finally back with his long-time teammates Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, for the first time in over a decade. After the 2011 season, Pujols was signed by the Los Angeles Angels for 10 years and $240 million. He never truly lived up to his potential in Los Angeles, only being an All-Star once, hitting around .256, and striking out almost twice as much as he walked. It seemed like his return to St. Louis was going to be a merciful end to Pujols’ playing career. But that’s where baseball fans were wrong.
Through the first three months of the season, Pujols batted a measly .181 with 4 homers, leaving him 17 shy of the 700 mark at the All-Star break. With Pujols being the only current player with a reasonable chance of hitting 700 homeruns, fans became hopeful. But after the first half of the season, most wrote him off. Alicia de Artola of Fansided doubted that he would be able to reach 700, questioning just how much he had left in the tank given his age. But “The Machine” was going to go out on his terms, slashing .318/.377/.671 since July 4th. Not only was this enough to make us reminisce about Pujols’ first stint with the Cardinals when he was consistently one of the best hitters in all of baseball. It also made him the BEST hitter in baseball (outside of Aaron Judge who was on another planet) per plate appearance.
Doing this, Pujols also helped the Cardinals clinch the National League Central Championship. Unfortunately, the Cardinals fell in two games to the Philadelphia Phillies in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, cutting Pujols’ chances short of further padding his stats. However, it is just difficult to fathom how the 42-year-old Pujols could play his best baseball of the past decade, as he neared the end of his career. It’s just one of the things that you look at as a baseball fan and think, “how can you not be romantic about baseball?.” A fun stat to put into perspective is how many home runs 700 is, Pujols’ average homerun trot over his career is around 26 seconds per. This means that over the 22 seasons Albert has played in, he has spent a little over 5 hours rounding the bases for his home runs.
Albert Pujols was by far the longest-tenured player in the MLB today debuting one year before pitcher Oliver Perez. He truly was the last of a dying breed and I don’t know that we will ever get to see someone dominate the majors for the first decade of their career. The only star in today’s game with similar dominance is Mike Trout. Who knows, maybe in another decade someone will be writing a similar story about Trout. But right to the very end of his illustrious career, ‘The Machine’ was the story.